NYCDOT Prioritizes Sustainable Modes at Queens Approach to Triborough

RFK_Area_Plaza.pngPlans for a new pedestrian area between Hoyt Avenue South and Astoria Boulevard. Pedestrians already crowd this space, which is only set off from traffic by striping (visible under the simulated sidewalk). Rendering: NYCDOT

NYCDOT has proposed a significant street redesign for the base of the RFK Bridge (a.k.a. the Triborough) in Astoria [PDF], a package that should improve public space, enhance safety for pedestrians and cyclists, and speed bus service across the bridge.

The redesign is the product of a DOT-sponsored safety workshop held in early 2009. Many of the pedestrian safety improvements will add greater protection to the paths that Astoria residents are already walking. A new sidewalk will link a senior center with the Astoria Boulevard subway station, for example, while a new pedestrian plaza will bring planted curb space between Hoyt Avenue South and Astoria Boulevard, where pedestrians currently stand between lanes of traffic as they cross to the train. 

RFK_Area_Bike_Improvements.pngThe skinny arrows show new bike lanes for approaches to the Triborough Bridge. Buffered lanes are shown in blue, with regular painted lanes in orange and sharrows in light green. Image: NYCDOT

Cyclists crossing the Triborough will find safer bridge approaches, thanks to the addition of new bike lanes [PDF]. The DOT plan calls for buffered lanes along Hoyt Avenue North and South, and on 21st Street between Ditmars Boulevard and 20th Avenue. Regular painted lanes and sharrows are also slated for nearby streets.

New traffic signals will help get bus riders to their destinations faster. A special bus-only phase will give the buses a head start on traffic at the intersection of Hoyt Avenue North and 29th Street. Currently, buses have to pick up passengers along the right side of Hoyt Avenue North before quickly cutting across four lanes of traffic to get onto the bridge. Under the proposed redesign, buses would drive in a bus-only lane between 31st and 29th Streets, where the traffic signal would turn green for buses a few seconds before regular traffic. The only other exclusive bus signals in New York can be found at Columbus Circle and along the Select Bus Service route on Fordham Road.

Queens Community Board 1 hasn't voted on the proposal yet, but the bike, bus, and pedestrian improvements have proven uncontroversial so far. Changes like narrowing travel lanes to make room for cyclists or giving buses a head start didn't spur many comments when presented to the board's transportation committee on May 19, said district manager Lucille Hartman. One aspect of the proposal did draw criticism -- converting two blocks of Astoria Boulevard to one-way flow, a change DOT drew up to relieve bridge traffic congestion.